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4,004 Posts

  • 1 Basic Information
  • 2 Report of interview with the 4th Officer, Mr. R. M. Cooper.
  • 3 Crew Casualties
  • 4 Contributors
Basic Information[edit]

Built: Barclay Curle, Glasgow; 1936.11,081 grt, 7,758 netSingle screw, geared turbines, 15 knots (17kts max), coal fired.Passengers; 219 in one class. Crew; 180.Employed on Liverpool - Bombay serviceEllerman City Line Ltd.

  • 17th September 1940 sunk by torpedo from German submarine U 48.
  • Passage: Liverpool to Canada with 191 passengers including 90 children & 10 escorts
  • Convoy: 19 ship, 8 knot convoy. City of Benares was Commodore Ship
  • Crew: 209
  • Convoy Staff 6
  • Casualties: 121 crew, 51 passengers, 77 children and six escorts lost..
  • Armament: .
  • Confidential Books: .
  • Degaussing: .
Report of interview with the 4th Officer, Mr. R. M. Cooper.[edit]

On the night of the 17th September, at about 10pm GMT I was asleep in my bunk and was awakened by a dull explosion and then the sound of alarm gongs. I dressed hurriedly and went along to my boat station which was No. 12 lifeboat, where I found the Native crews already mustered. I gave orders to clear away the boat, man the falls and reels and stand by for lowering.

By this time one lady escort, Miss Cornish, had brought 5 children to the boat, which was already lowered to the embarkation deck. Shortly afterwards the male escort Mr. O'Sullivan, arrived with one child and one passenger all of whom embarked in the lifeboat. The assistant steward then reported that all children had been cleared from the muster station in the Children's playroom to their allotted boats. I sent him to make a further search to ascertain if there were any children asleep in their cabins. He returned and stated that the cabins had been wrecked and the water being up to his waist he shouted along the alleyway. Receiving no reply he assumed that there were no children there.

There were now 18 children in the boat and 9 Europeans, and as the vessel did not appear to be sinking very rapidly, I held on for approximately a quarter of an hour in case any stragglers happened to appear. All other port boats had now been lowered into the water so I gave orders to lower away the boat which was launched in an orderly manner. When the boat was safely in the water I ordered the 4 natives, who had been standing by the falls, to get into the boat by means of the side ladders, and also the Assistant Steward who had remained on deck.

After having a further search around the deck, I made my way into the lifeboat and gave orders to ship the handles of the Fleming Gear which were fixed to all our lifeboats. We then pulled away from the vessel. Just as we were getting clear 4 natives appeared to be scrambling down the lifelines and boat falls, so we put back and took them into the boat. We then got clear and lay off until the vessel sank.

At about 11pm GMT the vessel commenced to go down stern first, raising her bow out of the water - she appeared to list heavily to port, then disappeared.

Noticing a person in one of the rafts we went alongside and took him aboard. It was the Naval Gunner Peards. I then steered over the position where the vessel sank and came across a raft containing two Natives whom I took on board. After this I sighted another raft; I pulled alongside and took aboard 2 Europeans and 3 Natives, one of the Europeans being Cadet Critchley and the other a Naval Signal Rating. About 10 yards away we picked up another native who was floating in the water.

The boat now contained 6 children, 2 Escorts, 1 passenger, 1 Cadet, 1 Seaman gunner who was a member of the crew, the Assistant Steward, 1 Naval signalman, 32 Natives and myself.

There was a rough sea and heavy swell running. Noticing a light which I took to be the rescue ship, I steered for it, but on approaching discovered it to be another lifeboat, the occupants of which hailed us and asked what ship. I replied CITY OF BENARES and they answered MARINA. Seeing no sign of the remainder of our lifeboat's, we kept company with the MARINA's lifeboat and steered in an Easterly direction before a strong wind, keeping sea and swell astern. We continued in company until dawn when the MARINA's boat set sail, parting from us.As daylight came I had the canvas hood rigged forward for the children, who were quite snugly wrapped in blankets of which there were an ample supply in the boat. The weather was so heavy that I decided not to set sail but carried on by means of the Fleming Gear, setting the members of the crew on watch. At noon I put all the occupants of the boat on food and water rations, detailing the Assistant Steward to serve out the allocated quantities.

On Thursday morning, the weather having moderated, we set the sail and continued in an Easterly course intending to make the land if not picked up meanwhile. On Friday afternoon the Westerly wind increased to gale force with heavy rain and hail squalls with high sea. I decided to ride to a sea anchor which was made fast in the after end of the boat, also making use of the oil bags. We rode to the sea anchor for the remainder of the day. My object in riding astern to sea was to endeavour to keep the children and passengers dry as they were under the hood fitted in the fore end of the boat.

At 4am on Saturday the 21st September, the wind and sea having abated a little, we set sail again and continued on an Eastern course. At about 4pm on Sunday 22nd we sighted a vessel which we thought was going to pick us up as she was heading in our direction. However, she altered course and steered away from us and I thought afterwards that she must have been zig zagging and may not have seen us.

The wind was again freshening and we continued under sail until about 6.30pm when the weather changed for the worse bringing frequent rain and hail squalls. I decided to run out the sea anchor again to which we rode stern first during the night.At daybreak, Monday the 23rd, the weather had moderated to a light wind, moderate sea and swell. We hoisted sail again and proceeded until 1pm Wednesday the 25th with a moderate W to WNW wind. One of the boys sighted a Sunderland Flying boat which made towards us and after circling 2 or 3 times communicated by means of the Aldis lamp. The Naval Signalman replied by means of Semaphore but I do not know whether the occupants of the 'plane understood the signal. The plane dropped a smoke flares with instructions to set it off when the rescue ship was in sight, and he made off.

I then decided to lower the sail and heave to until assistance arrived. About 2pm the flying boat again appeared and dropped a parcel containing food, also a note telling us that assistance was on the way. At about 4.30pm we sighted a Destroyer coming, guided by the 'plane. It was the HMS ANTHONY and by 5 o'clock we were made fast alongside and got the crew aboard without difficulty with the exception of one lascar who was ill. The Destroyer's MO attended to him in the lifeboat but he died shortly after being taken aboard the Destroyer.

All the children were in good form, having, I think, looked upon the whole thing as a picnic, and only one child was suffering from Trench feet. We were all attended to by the Officers and men of the Destroyer from whom we received every consideration and kindness.I hadn't at any time any anxiety regarding the food supplies in the boat as we had plenty of tinned foods including meat, salmon and milk, and there was of course the usual biscuits. However, I realised of course that if we weren't picked up before reaching land our water supplies would have to be strictly rationed. We had already travelled 200 miles and were still 400 miles from land when picked up.The Children behaved splendidly and were looked after very efficiently by Miss Cornish whom I believed massaged them continuously.Throughout I had every assistance from the passengers and crew. I was relieved at the tiller by Crichtley, the Assistant Steward and the Naval Signalman and the Lascar Saloon boy, Ramjan, was very good, proving most willing, helpful, and keeping the other Lascars in good order.

Everyone behaved very well, and a spirit of loyalty to orders and comparative cheerfulness prevailed throughout the entire 7 days and 19 hours which we were in the boat.

We were landed at Greenock at 7pm on the evening of the 26th September.

Crew Casualties[edit]
NICOLL, LandlesMaster (51) MN
ASHER, Hugh Hendry2nd Officer (39)MN
BAILEY, AnnieAssistant Stewardess (36)MN
BHICKOO, AbbasSeamanMN
CHARNOCK, ErnestOrdinary Signalman (24)RN
COOK, Christian SharpChief Stewardess (52)MN
CUTHBERTSON, James6th Engineer (21)MN
FAIRWEATHER, Alister1st Radio Officer (40)MN
FLETCHER, DuncanSurgeon (67)MN
GEMMELL, James Alexander Walker4th Engineer (24)MN
GIBBESON, John Cecil3rd Engineer (30)MN
LADYMAN, MargaretNurse (49)MN
LAZARUS, JohnWireless Operator (28)MN
LIVINGSTONE, Robert WilliamQuartermaster (42)MN
LUNT, GarathQuartermaster (20)MN
MACRAE, Donald5th Engineer (27)MN
MACKINNON, Edmond Julius GordonCommodore 2nd Class (60)
MCLACHLAN, WilliamQuartermaster (56)MN
MARSHALL, GeorgePetty Officer TelegraphistRN
MITCHELL, John ColvilleSupernumerary 6th Engineer (19)MN
ROBERTS, JohnQuartermaster (60)MN
SWALES, JamesElectrician (30)MN
SYMON, FrankSteward (27)MN
WALLACE, Agnes HNurse (25)MN
ABDOOL, AllawoodeenTrimmerMN
ABOO, Abdul LatifSaloon BoyMN
ADAM, EsmailSeamanMN
AHMED, JamalSaloon BoyMN
AHMED, Sk Esmail SkGreaserMN
AJAD, MadazTrimmerMN
ALFONSO, JoseGeneral ServantMN
ALI, MubarckBakerMN
ALLAB, MussuljerN/KMN
ALLEE, HashamFiremanMN
ALLEKHAN, Md KhanFiremanMN
AMEEN, KhotooGreaserMN
AMEN, Sk FakeerSeamanMN
AMJAD, SkStewardMN
AZIS,General ServantMN
BABA, OosmanSeamanMN
BABA, OosmanSeamanMN
BABOO, PootuGeneral ServantMN
BADROODEEN, SulleymanFiremanMN
BALLA, DawoodDonkeymanMN
BALLA, EbrahimSeamanMN
BAPOO, Sk NooroodeenSeamanMN
BAWASH, Sk AhmenFiremanMN
BHAKWA, Rustom MussuljerN/KMN
BUXSH, RahimButlerMN
CADER, AllesabSeamanMN
CALLOO, SkGeneral ServantMN
CHIKAPA, RamswamyTopassMN
DAWOOD, Mahomed SkSeamanMN
DHARMO, Ak HassonSeamanMN
DHONDOO, OosmanFiremanMN
EBRAHIM, AbdoollaFiremanMN
EBRAHIM, MahomedPaniwallahMN
EBRAHIM, Sk Md SkTrimmerMN
ESMAIL, Sheriff SkTrimmerMN
ESMAIL, Sk AlleeTrimmerMN
ESMAIL, SowkatSerangMN
FACKEER, RajackFiremanMN
FAZALDEEN, Sheir MdFiremanMN
FERNANDES, ManuelAssistant StewardMN
FERNANDES, Roque SScullionMN
GHANI, AbdulSaloon BoyMN
GUNNY, Amon AbdoolTrimmerMN
HASSON, Sk Hoosein SkWinchmanMN
HOOSEIN, Sk Adam SkBhandaryMN
HUQ, AbdulSaloon BoyMN
HUSSAIN, MohdSaloon BoyMN
HYDERKHAN, JafferkhanFiremanMN
JAFFER, MahomedFiremanMN
JAN, Sk MdSaloon BoyMN
KHALIQUE, Sk AbdulSaloon BoyMN
KHAMIE, HassonTrimmerMN
KHOTOO, Sk AlleeFiremanMN
LALOO, SkPantry BoyMN
LATIF,General ServantMN
LEITAO, Piedade CGeneral ServantMN
MAHOMED, DawoodTrimmerMN
MAHOMED, ShooseinTindalMN
MAHOMED, Sk Hossein SkFiremanMN
MANSOOR, IsmailGreaserMN
MOHIB, BhandaryN/KMN
MOJID, AbdulSaloon BoyMN
NAYKI, Nazroo MahdPaniwallahMN
NOOROO, SkPantrymanMN
OOSMAN, AbdooramonCassabMN
OOSMAN, Sk AbassTindalMN
OZONEULLA, ToimoosoollaGreaserMN
PALMA, BenedicCookMN
PANCHANDRA, RamswamyTopassMN
PEREIRA, EspexianButcher's MateMN
RAHIM, Ebrahim AbdoolGeneral ServantMN
RAHMAN, AzizurSaloon BoyMN
RAZACK, AbdoolTrimmerMN
RAZACK, AbdoolSaloon BoyMN
SAFEE, Mahomed BhandaryMN
SOBAN, AbdoolCaptain's BoyMN
SOFEE, MohomedBarberMN
SUBRAMANI, RangswamiTopassMN
SUKARAM, GunpatTopassMN
SULTAN, EsmailTrimmerMN

Footnote to Casualties List

It is interesting to observe that the original source of casualties listed the non-white crew members after the white crew members rather than providing all the names in alphabetical order. The non-white crew members also largely have their separate job names. More information about this is available at this link:

  1. Initial entry by SN Member Baltic Wal
  2. Fred Henderson
  3. Benjidog (mainly formatting of casualties section)
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